Seascape-scale trophic links for fish on inshore coral reefs

Research paper by Jean P. Davis, Kylie A. Pitt, Brian Fry, Andrew D. Olds, Rod M. Connolly

Indexed on: 12 Aug '14Published on: 12 Aug '14Published in: Coral reefs (Online)


It is increasingly accepted that coastal habitats such as inshore coral reefs do not function in isolation but rather as part of a larger habitat network. In the Caribbean, trophic subsidies from habitats adjacent to coral reefs support the diet of reef fishes, but it is not known whether similar trophic links occur on reefs in the Indo-Pacific. Here, we test whether reef fishes in inshore coral, mangrove, and seagrass habitats are supported by trophic links. We used carbon stable isotopes and mathematical mixing models to determine the minimum proportion of resources from mangrove or seagrass habitats in the diet of five fish species from coral reefs at varying distances (0–2,200 m) from these habitats in Moreton Bay, Queensland, eastern Australia. Of the fish species that are more abundant on reefs near to mangroves, Lutjanus russelli and Acanthopagrus australis showed no minimum use of diet sources from mangrove habitat. Siganus fuscescens utilized a minimum of 25–44 % mangrove sources and this contribution increased with the proximity of reefs to mangroves (R2 = 0.91). Seagrass or reef flat sources contributed a minimum of 14–78 % to the diet of Diagramma labiosum, a species found in higher abundance on reefs near seagrass beds, but variation in diet among reefs was unrelated to seascape structure. Seagrass or reef flat sources also contributed a minimum of 8–55 % to a fish species found only on reefs (Pseudolabrus guentheri), indicating that detrital subsidies from these habitats may subsidize fish diet on reefs. These results suggest that carbon sources from multiple habitats contribute to the functioning of inshore coral reef ecosystems and that trophic connectivity between reefs and mangroves may enhance production of a functionally important herbivore.